HUMANITARIAN AID GETS TO ROMANIA, thanks to Daewoo APRIL 1999
Looking for a suitable vehicle to use, I apprached Daewoo who were very happy to supply the first Daewoo Musso (they had just taken over Ssang Yong) on the press fleet, so it was stickered up to show it was a Daewoo, which was a problem at the Romanian border, as the 'official' decided it was a Land Rover and wouldn't let me pas through customs until I agreed with him...
months before the trip, I contacted Donna Taylor and asked if she would
like to co-drive on an aid trip to Romania along with Liverpool Land
Donna considered that was the start of it -
something that finished with herself feeling somewhat sad, enriched,
enlightened and in serious need of therapy! You don't encounter a troup
of Scousers, Preston Front look-alikes, a couple of Mancunians, a
Geordie, not forgetting the Southern and Welsh representatives... and
Friday March 26th the trip began for members
of Liverpool Land Rover Club and myself, it started early in the morning
picking up trailers and paperwork at the offices of Gobowens Transport
in Liverpool. I met Donna at Newport Pagnel Services around mid-day,
having been 'seen off' by a group of friends the night before, the day
apparently passing in a sort of haze punctuated by short sleeps, traffic
jams at Dartford, difficulty at the ferry terminal with our paperwork
and having to pay £274 for the privilege to travel freight (and that
price was heavily discounted, apparently!).
We departed Dover
finally at 23.30, several hours after having all the crews met up up at
South Mimms Service station on the M1. We left the ferry a couple of
hours later at Calais, and became separated from the rest of the convoy,
but met up again with the help of CB radio the next morning at 9.30 in
the lay-by in which we had spent the night.
This is where the
journey really started. The whole convoy together at last, including
seven 4x4 vehicles with trailers loaned by Barlow Trailers, of Chorley
and an articulated lorry with 40' trailer from Gobowen Transport of
Liverpool. The convoy consisted of a collection of Land Rover and Range
Rover vehicles with the exception of the artic' and Donna and myself in
the Daewoo Musso 4x4, very kindly loaned for the trip. It was some time
before we could put the Musso through it's paces, because one of the
Land Rovers was having a little trouble with it's trailer and speed had
to be kept quite low. We did however manage to keep to the somewhat
gruelling schedule, and managed to very comfortably travel through
France, Belgium and into Germany where we set up camp at a service
station near Frankfurt.
With our first 1,000 miles completed, we
dug in for the day, Sunday, John the lorry driver had to take a day off
for the benefit of his tachograph. So the day was taken up with running
repairs and maintenance - vehicular and human. The Daewoo, being new
did not require either.
Chores over, we did a little
sight-seeing around Ofenbach and Frankfurt, managing to get lost. But,
after receiving accurate directions from an English speaking German (as
most are), we eventually rejoined the convoy at the service station.
Sunday night soon came and everyone was feeling particularly sociable
with the aid of the free-flowing German Bier!
At last, a chance
to get to know each other, as Donna and I hadn't met any of the others
before. This socialising did go on a little longer than was advisable
considering we had to be up at 5am, and sleeping in a vehicle, even a
car as comfortable as the Daewoo Musso, has its drawbacks. For example,
the 'Turkish Lorry Driver Problem'. This particular driver felt
compelled to park very close and spent his night staring through the
window, Donna cowering under her sleeping bag, feeling like a not too
exotic zoo exhibit.
Monday 29th and we just about managed to
crawl out of the car at the preordained time of 5am. Unfortunately,
Donna must have drawn the short straw, consequently the 'hangover' run
was hers. Soothed by the comfort and excellent sound system of the
Daewoo, she soon recovered enough to regain her power of speech, and
implore me to to take over the wheel, which I willingly did.
1,000 miles on and more, we crossed through Austria to Hungary with
little more than the Austrian tax (which they don't tell you about!, so
they can fine you, no doubt! - but, luckily, I had previous knowledge, so purchased it!) and toll roads to cope with.
was about this point that Donna earned her nickname 'Mad Dog' although
the link was a bit obscure, it caused some hilarity among the rest of
convoy. 'Mad' refering to her somewhat adventurous driving technique and
'Dog' apparently because Daewoo is made in Korea where people allegedly
have a predeliction for cooked canine.
longevity of the journey so far we were remarkably relaxed, the seats of
the Daewoo certainly stood up to a lengthy journey with no sign
whatsoever of the old 'numb bum' syndrome associated with some other
less comfortable 4x4 vehicles. In fact the Musso has to be one of the
most civilised rides I have ever encountered.
On the Monday, the
drivers went through the various queues at the Austrian/Hungarian
border. Apparently, the Austrian side was no problem, as expected, but
the Hungarians do not really have a clue of what's going on. Imagine a
border control run by Basil Fawlty and you won't be far off. And this
country wanted to get into the EU? and even more remarkably, it did!
we reached the Hungarian border with Romania on Tuesday, up till then
we had managed to remain roughly on schedule, despite the leading Land
Rover becoming overheated, as we came through the German Burgs.
stated a more tortuous nightmare of afficiousness and red tape - not to
mention sheer stupidity - it would be difficult to imagine, unless of
course you were given to particularly negative flights of fancy, and
suffering from a severe bout of depression, you might approximate this
particular scenario that followed.
We spent an entire day at the
Hungarian border. Liverpool Land Rover Club, doing this trip every year,
anticipated some hold up with the paperwork, and crossing through at
last, we were warned not to cheer prematurely as the worst was yet to
come. They were not wrong!
Donna and I thought a wasted day was
bad enough, and I had experienced border difficulties before on previous
aid runs. Donna very naively thought that as we were taking aid into
the country whose border we were about to cross, we should experience
little difficulty in acheiving our goal? Yes? - NO!!
idea was sending Donna in front wrapped in sexiest lowest cut top and
warmest smile. Although it seemed a good idea on paper, this fell
completely flat when we encountered the stony faced Romanian office
women, who were not enamoured of our technique and were probably very
skilled at weightlifting.... We just had to wait it out with the other
irrate, mainly Turkish lorry drivers who were experiencing similar
difficulties and are not blessed with our British love of queues. Then, when we eventually got to the front of the queue, the shutter was dropped and it was dinner break.
the end of the first days wait, we were told we could drive off, but
must return the next day to continue the tedious 'no stampa' ...'go to
next office' routine. Apparently the goal posts are moved on a regular
basis, so, what was appropriate paperwork on last years trip may not be
adequate on this one, as proved to be the case.
border guards eventually let us in to the country - on the condition we
returned the following day for clearance - and we drove to an "hotel"
near to Bevis.
As I parked the Daewoo, Donna dashed ahead and
managed to grab the best room - the only one that had electric, a TV,
heating, a working bog and shower (after I had repaired it).
back and to to the customs carried on for another three days before we
finally got the lorry and trailers to the Casa di Copi (House of
Children) Orphanage in Bevis, north west Romania. DonnaI stated that all
the travelling and subsequent hassle, were all more than worthwhile
when the orphans cheered as the trailers were driven in, but, there
again, she hadn’t had to drive back and to to the customs and spend days
loking at the wonderful Romanian scenery. I would like to point out
that this is me being sarcastic, as the scenery at the border, was something
you might expect at a former USSR border. Scrubland and fences.
work was not yet over however, now came the mammoth task of unloading
several tonnes of mixed aid whilst trying to ensure that the provisions
were received by the children they were intended for. This was partly
ensured by the help enlisted by Eddie and Billy, a couple of 'scousers'
from Liverpool L.R.C. who had an eerie understanding of the juvenile
criminal mind (allegedly) and utilized the 'special skills' of some
of the older children to offset the attention that the goods were
receiving from the local 'bad boys', turning a potential problem to
advantage, and making lots of new friends into the bargain.
of the supplies were for other places and had to be reloaded for
distribution to the abandoned babies unit at the local hospital in
Beius, as well as a place called Arrad and a later trip to Hadesh, down
on the Hungarian border, to another ophanage.
Although we had a
really hectic schedule, delivering the supplies as well as spending time
with the Casa di Copi children, we found that the Daewoo Musso was more
than equal to the task, which was not an easy one considering that the
Romanian roads, or lack of them, in some places puts you very much in
mind of a moonscape, more so than any earthly plane.
the Musso took it all in it's stride and simply gobbled up easily the
many miles of rough terrain put in its path. So all in all, I felt we
fared a lot better than our Land Rover counterparts who were not,
perhaps as relaxed as we were upon reaching our destinations. Although
the price of fuel was no issue in Romania - its extremely cheap, but the quality was lacking and the Daewoo left a trail of black smoke until we managed to find better quality diesel in Hungary - we
found the Daewoo to be quite economical on fuel, even though it wouldn't change up to top gear (sensor fault, according to Daewoo press fleet).
journey was a bit better at the borders, with the exception of the
Hungarian/Austrian border, as the Hungarians wanted all the lorries
weighed as they entered the control area - and there were a lot of
When we got into Austria, one of the Land Rovers
experienced a failed turbo and it was decided to go our different ways
as I wanted to show Donna the northern Alps - whilst other crews wanted
to visit Amsterdam, (I've no idea why!), so we said our farewells and headed into the
unknown, well the Rhine valley, actually...
We got caught in a
few roadworks and the early morning Belgium rush hour, but we eventually
made Calais around lunchtime. Without any queuing, we were quickly cleared
by the very helpful french customs and we went straight on the ferry.
An hour later, we were back on UK soil and able to join the queues on
the M25, M6, etc. All good fun!